Buttercup - Column for 9/14

Time for Procrastination

It always amazes me how I can find time to do anything but write. It is like cleaning the cat box or spring cleaning the refrigerator or entering receipts in the checkbook register. It is odious and avoided with a single minded blindness that is appalling. Instead of writing I find that I must do any of those odious chores and suddenly the bathroom is clean and dinner is fixed and the errands are run and I have watched dozens of movies that I never could find the time for. Because it is important, you see, to be social, to talk with my husband and share entertainment and read the newspaper and do the laundry and just about anything else I might not trouble myself with so much if I hadn't promised myself I would write every single day in my journal.

It goes back to childhood, this procrastination of writing. I never did homework and I wonder now how I ever passed my classes. In elementary school my excuses were famous, as plausible as they were imaginative if they hadn't been so frequent. In secondary school I found time to do my homework in class or between classes and I can still picture the stack of books I brought home faithfully every day and left on the stairway to be picked up again in the morning on the way back to school. I always meant to do my work at home, I always intended to become a better student. It just never happened. Even my college thesis was written in forty-eight miserable hours before it was due. It could have been better, the reviewers said, it could have had more direct references and quotes.

As a working writer I slowly began to learn the art of writing, the value of planning and outlines, though procrastination was still the rule and I was surrounded by missed deadlines from procrastinators even worse than myself. But eventually I wrote about things I didn't care about and I found that the careful scheduling of milestones and deadlines was the only way it could be written at all. There is a comfort in the mathematical setting out of schedules based on metrics, planning and outlines, and satisfaction in meeting each goal on time. At each stage you can say, "Look, I am doing something, I have done something," instead of the familiar litany of, "I'm working on it, I just need to check a few more facts."

But I've never managed to translate that revelation into my personal writing. My journals are still plagued by the same procrastination that I've suffered since childhood, the same angst, the same terror. The real irony is that much of the time that I spend procrastinating I am daydreaming of writing. I write letters to friends and relatives, essays and editorials and sometimes even poems. Sometimes I cannot even remember if I have sent a letter or just daydreamed it. Someday, I tell myself, I will write every day, I will open my journal at the appointed hour and write and not appointments or social calls or laundry or lunch or even daydreaming will keep me away. Someday I'll be a writer.

Columns by Buttercup